Monday, March 12, 2012

Get Carter...

Get Marketing...



Along time ago in a galaxy not so far away...

Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote a great sci-fi adventure story called A Princess of Mars that would become one of the most influential science fiction fantasy stories of the 20th century inspiring George Lucas to make the epic Star Wars franchise nearly 60 years after it. It has taken a full century for Burroughs' imaginative epic fantasy to come to life on the big screen but John Carter has arrived in theaters DOA thanks to a series of costly marketing blunders by Disney of equally epic proportions.

Despite its numerous failures to attract an audience, director Andrew Stanton has delivered a first class epic fantasy film that brings the pages of Burroughs' highly imaginative world of Barsoom to life in living, breathing color with vibrant special effects and computer animation that could easily have become the Mouse's Star Wars franchise with the proper marketing muscle behind it. Unfortunately we will probably never see the further adventures of John Carter in The Gods of Mars or Warlords of Mars or any of the other chronicles in Burroughs' classic pulp series because the audience for whom the film was targeted has no idea just who John Carter is and is far more excited to see this summer's Hunger Games, also based on a popular series of teenage literary novels, than a hundred year-old character from a book they've never even heard of.

Perhaps the biggest tragedy is the over-simplified title changed by Stanton himself. Who is John Carter? Why should anyone care about him?

Well, he's Taylor Kitsch who played Gambit from X-Men Origins: Wolverine and his co-star Lynn Collins from the same film is ideally cast as the beautiful Princess Dejah Thoris of Helium. John Carter is a confederate captain from Virginia who travels to Arizona to find gold, only to find himself astrally transported to Mars after being fatally shot by Apache Indians. There are plenty of metaphors here between the natives of both worlds that evoke Dances With Wolves and Avatar as John Carter becomes the propheseid hero and savior of Barsoom which the native Tharks call their red planet. With an inspired cast of supporting actors with Willem Dafoe as the voice of Tars Tarkas, a nine foot tall, four armed green Martian, Dafoe sounds exactly as I would have always imagined the voice of Tars Tarkas to sound like and brings the character to life with his impassioned performance. Other inspired casting choices include terrific supporting performances by Ciaran Hinds and James Purefoy who are reunited again from working together in HBO's excellent series Rome and Tardos Mors and Kantos Kan respectively. Dominic West from HBO's The Wire also rounds out the inspired casting as the villanous Sab Than seeking the hand of the Princess of Helium to unite a planetary civil war and become its ruler.

John Carter is filled with action, adventure, special effects, animation, heroes, villains, monsters and a princess, it has all the fundamental ingredients of a classic Disney film and is a faithful adaptation of Burroughs' novel, and Disney and Stanton have delivered a spectacular film that has fallen flat on its face as a $250 million box office disaster that is being critically compared to 1995's sci-fi flop Waterworld. It must make over $400 million just to break even, another unrealistic expectation reminiscent of 2010's Tron Legacy by the foolish suits at Disney who clearly have no clue how to run the studio nor do they know anything about what they have on their hands or how to mass market their product and for that heads should roll and Disney's marketing department all deserve the grim fate that awaits them.

As for the fate of John Carter, who knows, but all indications so far seem to imply that we may never return to the red planet on the big screen again. Fortunately the written pages of Burroughs will last forever for those of us that still remember them...

Long live John Carter of Mars!

28 comments:

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Well..no brainer here...wrong film wrong timing...wrong audience.

It reminds me that a company should focus on what it does best...Disney/Children..

I know that they can do better..oh wait Brave is coming out...I still smell stench.. perhaps they can use the charactures after the stay puff lotion tissues type ads that they resemble.

All of these films tend to go too far towards the dark/satanic images like HP . Where is the light or the lamp. Are you hearing me Mr.L.

More Stitch,Woody, and good vs bad is what we need.

Hopefully the good will come from this bad and we can smile again.

RWR63

Anonymous said...

Wow I'm surprised to hear your glowing review.

Sorry I can't blame this all on marketing. Overall the film was a big dud. Poorly written, poorly acted and poorly directed. Some of it was just laughably bad.

Animated Response said...

The film was great. It was a wonderful, old fashioned film like the kind I used to see as a kid.

I totally disagree with the above comment that it's a bad script, ect. I left the theater and everyone around me was talking about how it was surprisingly good.

I'll be seeing it again this week.

Anonymous said...

This review was by Tron Unit, not Honor, so I wonder what he thought of the film.

Steve said...

A decent film but not worth the money Disney threw at it. It's far too heavy, narratively it's kind of a mess (the opening 10 minutes are all over the place) and the two leads were wooden as hell. Some very nice set pieces but like Tron there just wasn't any sense of fun or adventure. I expected much more from Stanton. I really think the Disney live action division needs to have a serious rethink of the type of films it wants to make cause big budgets aside, the past few years have been awful.

Anonymous said...

I loved it!!! It was the wrong time of year and bad marketing are to blame. This is clearly an epic summer movie (just like Star Wars) and should have been released in either June or July then mass marketed months before. Nice going Disney suits.

BLACK BLOOD OF KALI said...

LONG LIVE JOHN CARTER OF MARS!

Edgar Ricecakes said...

Nice long interview with Mr Stanton here:

Artists at Google Presents Andrew Stanton: John Carter

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AtP33OuPzgc

Brian said...

I'm really surprised, the film you went and saw is clearly not the John Carter I spent nearly $11 to see. Even if this is where all other sci-fi got its start, honestly, that does not matter when from a movie standard we've been seeing things from the books from at least 1977 when the original STAR WARS was released. The general public does not care the book(s) came out almost 100 years ago and only compare them to what they've seen. That said, there truly isn't much here that we have not seen before and seen done much more successfully. Knowing this, the movie makers should have taken that knowledge and used it to push the envelope with this movie, the failure of this movie is not only in its marketing. The magic of the movie experience is it can transport us anywhere, the filmakers are clearly aware that we've seen desert planets, legions of computer generated aliens in battle, head strong princesses, and so on, all of this should have motivated them to push this into a realm of originality from the design of the desert planet, to the battles, they handled it as standard fare with no innovative thinking at all. I honestly would not recommend this movie to anyone and if you do want to see it, wait to see it for $1 from redbox or netflix.

Stanton said...

Saw the movie and liked it. I agree with an earlier post: should have been a summer 'blockbuster' type movie with loads of marketing build-up.

Kevin said...

Hey, Disney...hire me for marketing, we can turn it around together...
Anyway...haven't seen the film yet, but I heard they changed the title because of the shall-not-be-named Mars Needs Moms, to avoid confusion and association with that film...really? I didn't realize Disney had such a low regard for its audience...it's like the UFO lyrics, "Oh my, oh how the times have changed." Won't say anything about the film, just saying marketing needs work...

Jadydangel said...

I watched it as a Moviegoer. (Whom movies are made for.) Not as a critic, a professor of film or literary history, or even as a sci-fi aficionado who had even a clue where the backstory on the film came from. I am The Public.

And I liked it.

I liked the choice of actors. I liked the costumes. And The Story.

Isn't that what a movie is supposed to be all about? Yeah, great, Lucas stole ideas from John Q Author of John Carter for his Star Wars franchise. Whoopie. Oh, and guess what? They weren't REALLY on Mars. (I mean Barsoom.) You have to suspend a little disbelief. It's fiction.

John Carter reminded me of what a movie used to be like, before we had Sparkling Vampires and Flying Wizards. Fantasy, other worlds, good guys, bad guys, a little intrigue.

Oh, and there is, of course, that Pretty Little Princess.

It is Disney, after all.

Anonymous said...

No way near as good as Avatar, but well above Narnia. Disney just does not seem to have the ability to produce good fantasy/sci-fi fare.

Anonymous said...

While the marketing sucked, I believe the movie was flawed as well.

I read several articles that Star Wars, Avatar, Superman and more were heavily influenced by the book, which was written a hundred plus years ago. As a result, after seeing these ideas in the mentioned movies, it feels like John Carter the movie reused ideas seen in those films.

Who knows, maybe it will be a hit.

Michael said...

Quote from Andrew about title... “At the time there was panic of [confusion] with Mars Needs Moms, and that wasn’t convincing me to do anything. Then they did all this testing and they found that a huge bump of people were saying no just off the title,” Stanton admitted. “I realized that the movie is about that arc, so I said, ‘Look I’ll bend if … you guys let me keep the JCM logo because it’s going to mean something by the end of the movie, and if there’s more movies I want that to be the thing you remember.”

Anonymous said...

"It reminds me that a company should focus on what it does best...Disney/Children.."

Since when? Since only recently, and it continues to promote the dumbing down of Disney.

Disney NEVER made "children's films." They made FAMILY films--films adults can enjoy as MUCH as children. Films that didn't talk down to children.

John Carter is not the worst film made, but there's absolutely nothing special about it on any level. The script was pedestrian, the film making mostly amateurish, and it was overly complicated on multiple levels. The action scenes are OK, but with no strong characters to root for, it just sort of sits there. The bad marketing didn't help, but the film would have probably flopped anyway because it's just not particularly good.

Dont_Care said...

My snark comment is "Princess of Mars" was already made into a movie starring Traci Lords (the infamous actress), a 2009 movie. This was also a little seen movie. Its available in cable television on constant rotation at SyFy network, I think.

People might not know about John Carter, but the source material has already been done to death. Thus, it needed a fresh approach to its marketing and possibly the production itself. I didn't see the movie because it didn't appeal to me. Only after reading about it from critics (movie reviewers), I realized what it is about.

It would seem that the book itself is DOA. If it deserved to be done, Star Wars and Avatar already done it. Thus, everyone at Disney is culpable for its failure. Marketing couldn't fix something that was broken. Certainly, calling the movie "John Carter" didn't help, but the "Princess of Mars" and the "Martian Chronicals" were taken. Having "Mars" in the title is not a good idea. Perhaps a less literal approach is needed to evoke a long distance away. And there needed to find another approach with the solder from America. (Mall Cop? Just throwing it out there. :). Oh well, it will have a afterlife via DVD/BluRay.

tomtom said...

I've only read the first book at this point, but based on that.... I HATED the movie. They changed so much about the world and the character of the characters, removed character development, removed major plot points (atmosphere plant and it's role in the finale of the book, for one) and changed others completely. I stayed through to the end only as a formality to see exactly what they did and I high-tailed it out of there as soon as the credits started.

What a waste of my time and money. I'll stick with the books and the boundless realm of my imagination. I will not be: seeing any sequels they come out with; buying any merchandise (aside from the unabridged books); or going to friends' houses to watch the movie(s).

I will say that for the casual movie-goer who has never read the book(s), let alone heard of John Carter at all, that they will most likely enjoy the movie. The visuals WERE stunning and it was great seeing them not hold back in making the place look real and maintaining the grandeur of the space. But, I cannot excuse what they did to the story.

Nanhureh Saparauh said...

Great review, Tron Unit. I totally agree with you. John Carter was the victim of a horrible marketing campaign and a pack of entertainment types that were looking for failure. It's sad that a film as fun as this will be made fun of while crap such as Twilight goes on to make hundreds of millions of dollars.

Anonymous said...

I don't think this film would have been more successful or better if Disney sold it differently.

Grand Moff Tarkin said...

Good review, Tron Unit. I coundn't agree with you more.

Brian said...

This movie stank, it has nothing to do with the marketing, the story was been there done that and not only been there done that, but been there done that better. I don't understand why everyone is trying to justify this is a good movie (when it clearly is not), and saying its all the promotion. When a movie is made, good or bad, that is the responsibility of the director, no one else, that is why they are called the director. The failure of this movie falls on the shoulders of the director, no one else. There are hundreds of films which have been huge successes which have had dreadful marketing campaigns, the reason they succeed is because the director made a good movie. This is in no way, shape or form, no matter what spin is placed upon it, a good movie.

Anonymous said...

Brian, not only are you just completely ignorant about the source material (which came before everything else) but you are just completely ignorant in general.

Anonymous said...

Another naysayer. I even think the marketing department (who I blamed until I saw this tiresome dud) probably was inspired to create such a stale marketing campaign to capture what they saw on-screen. The glacial pacing and humdrum script probably inspired some of their austere, dry message. For a movie by one of Pixar's finest, it's short on characters to care about, lacks much humor and has many draggy bits. Andrew Stanton has made a lousy film with ugly lighting, terrible costumes, and spotty special effects that completely lacks the grand storytelling Disney wants. The actors were all phoning it in, too, but perhaps Stanton doesn't have the chops to get actors to sparkle the way he can get animated robots and fish to do so. At least a quarter of the problem was the bloated, episodic script that seems derivative because this book inspired so many other films but you know what you do when you have material like that? You reinvent things - you don't just go through the motions. You don't do yet another arena combat scene, yet another 'what do you mean the enemy aren't where we thought they were' scene and I thought heaven help us when they carted out another wedding that stops just in time. It's sad that they paid big bucks to bring in Michael Chabon - who is a wonderful novelist but just isn't really suited for screenplays, I think. He bogs them down with details no summer movie wants to contain and doesn't have the decency to improve the dialogue. What a big, terrible yawn of a film. I really wanted to like it and went in with lowered expectations based on the mixed reviews - and I was still disappointed.

Anonymous said...

"ot only are you just completely ignorant about the source material (which came before everything else) but you are just completely ignorant in general."

NO one cares that this movie has been rehashed by a bunch of other movies. Fact is, almost every one of those other movies improved on the ideas, and used them in cinematically superior ways. The Mars books are fair kids pulp, but not much more. But the movie John Carter is a bore.

Ignorance is bliss. I hope you're enjoying your bliss.

Anonymous said...

I am surprised to read so many negative reactions to this movie. I was not familiar with the books, didn't like the posters they put up here in Austria, but men, did I like the different trailers I saw online.
I was thrilled by the movie, by its plot, its pace and at one time even thought: "I would have loved this kind of thing as a kid, wait a second, I am loving it now!"
I think the princess was well casted and she did a great job portraying this independent woman. The main lead I thought could have had more emotion and depth but he was nice to look at.
It is a pity there probably won't be any sequels to this because I had a wonderful night at the cinema.

Anonymous said...

Wow - I just saw this movie and thoroughly enjoyed it. A real pity that we won't see any sequels based on BO performance but hopefully it'll turn into a cult hit.

For the haters, I will give them this - The "Edgar rice Burroughs" wraparound plot is a dud. In fact, people who want a bona fide 4-star movie should simply watch the intro martian sequence and then skip to John Carter walking into town and demanding beans, then watch all the way through and then stop the film once John Carter is on the balcony and says "John Carter of Mars."

P.S. Love the martian dog. Scene stealer virtually every time. Hope this becomes a cult classic aka "Rocketeer."